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A History of English Prose Fiction by Tuckerman

Porter calls it innocent mirth


guilty of the same again. *

* * I read part of the fourth volume of the _Tatler_; the oftener I read it, the better I like it. I think I never found the vice of drinking so well exploded in my life, as in one of the numbers." In January, 1751, "Mr. Elless (the schoolmaster), Marchant, myself, and wife sat down to whist about seven o'clock, and played all night; very pleasant, and I think I may say innocent mirth, there being no oaths nor imprecations sounding from side to side, as is too often the case at cards." February 2, "we supped at Mr. Fuller's, and spent the evening with a great deal of mirth, till between one and two. Tho, Fuller brought my wife home on his back, I cannot say I came home sober, though I was far from being bad company. I think we spent the evening with a great deal of pleasure." March 7th, a party met at Mr. Joseph Fuller's, "drinking," records our diarist, "like horses, as the vulgar phrase is, and singing, till many of us were very drunk, and then we went to dancing, and pulling of wigs, caps, and hats; and thus we continued in this frantic manner, behaving more like mad people than they that profess the name of Christians." Three days after, the same amusements are enjoyed at the house of Mr. Porter, the clergyman of the parish, except "there was no swearing and ill words, by reason of which Mr. Porter calls it innocent mirth, but I in opinion differ much therefrom." Mr. Turner had no great reason to respect the opinion of clergymen on such matters. Soon after, "Mr. ----, the
curate of Laughton, came to the shop in the forenoon, and he having bought some things of me (and I could wish he had paid for them), dined with me, and also staid in the afternoon till he got in liquor, and being so complaisant as to keep him company, I was quite drunk. How do I detest myself for being so foolish!" A little later, Mr, Turner attended a vestry meeting, at which "we had several warm arguments, and several vollies of execrable oaths oftentime redounded from almost all parts of the room.

"About 4 P.M. I walked down to Whyly. We played at bragg the first part of the even. After ten we went to supper, on four broiled chicken, four boiled ducks, minced veal, cold roast goose, chicken pastry, and ham. Our company, Mr. and Mrs. Porter, Mr. and Mrs. Coates, Mrs. Atkins, Mrs. Hicks, Mr. Piper and wife, Joseph Fuller and wife, Tho. Fuller and wife, Dame Durrant, myself and wife, and Mr. French's family. After supper our behaviour was far from that of serious, harmless mirth; it was downright obstreperious, mixed with a great deal of folly and stupidity. Our diversion was dancing or jumping about, without a violin or any musick, singing of foolish healths, and drinking all the time as fast as it could be well poured down; and the parson of the parish was one among the mixed multitude. If conscience dictates right from wrong, as doubtless it sometimes does, mine is one that I may say is soon offended: for, I must say, I am always very uneasy at such behavior, thinking it not like the behaviour of the primitive Christians, which, I imagine, was most in conformity to our Saviour's gospel.

"Thursday, Feb, 25th. This morning, about six o'clock, just as my wife was got to bed, we was awaked by Mrs. Porter, who pretended she wanted some cream of tartar; but as soon as my wife got out of bed, she vowed she should come down. She found Mr. Porter (the clergyman), Mr. Fuller, and his wife, with a lighted candle, and part of a bottle of port wine and a glass. The next thing was to have me down stairs, which being apprised of, I fastened my door. Up stairs they came, and threatened to break it open; so I ordered the boys to open it, when they poured into my room; and as modesty forbid me to get out of bed, so I refrained; but their immodesty permitted them to draw me out of bed, as the phrase is, topsy-turvey; but, however, at the intercession of Mr. Porter, they permitted me to put on * * * my wife's petticoats; and in this manner they made me dance, without shoes and stockings, until they had emptied a bottle of wine, and also a bottle of my beer. * * * About three o'clock in the afternoon, they found their way to their respective homes, beginning to be a little serious, and, in my opinion, ashamed of their stupid enterprise and drunken perambulation. Now let any one call in reason to his assistance, and reflect seriously on what I have before recited, and they will join me in thinking that the precepts delivered from the pulpit on Sunday, though delivered with the greatest ardour, must lose a great deal of there efficacy by such examples."


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